Union opens tomorrow, and I’ve lost my lucky stone

Union opens tomorrow, and I’ve lost my lucky stone

The interior of Union, last month (Photo by Jessica Darmanin)

I am opening Union tonight and I’ve lost my stone. I lost it a while ago, sometime in the middle of preparing the restaurant. It was a half stone, which is why I kept it. I figured my grandfather had the other half. We were the same age when I found it—22. He flew those big Lancaster bombers in the war. He didn’t have a co-pilot, so he had to pee in a can because he couldn’t leave the controls. His name was Jack Gillies.

I found the stone at his grave, in a cemetery full of Canadians, in Harogate, England—my cousin and I drove out there when we were travelling. It was in the earth and leaves, with its smooth oval top poking out. When I picked it up there was just the half. It was shaped like a turtle’s shell. It was brown and smooth, with slight ridges on the flat side. We slept in the car that night, in a field, and woke up with a cop taping on our window. We ate an extra breakfast for our grandfather, like he was sitting at the table with us. I carried the stone for 12 years. It was my lucky charm.

I’ve been trying to make myself feel better by saying that it was time for the stone to go. I try to convince myself that I don’t need it anymore, but I know I do. I feel ordinary without it. I feel vulnerable. I didn’t need money or keys when I had that stone in my pocket. I didn’t need anything. It was pure faith. It was a kind of reminder to go for it and not to hide because good things will happen when you put yourself out there. It’s what took me overseas and brought me back home. I want to do something special, or at least try to, without fear of what could happen.

So I am determined to take all the dirt, crap and pain that came with building this restaurant for the past year and make something real, honest, good and clean. A friend of mine said to me a while back, when things were going really badly, that what I need is a soft place to land. I hope that is what Union will become: a soft place to land; a good warm place to refuel and be together.

Union, 72 Ossington Ave., opens tonight.